Wraysbury sessions - Part III
The best laid plans... Pain and pleasure in the Bus Stop
The best laid plans... Pain and pleasure in the Bus Stop
Following the capture of the Broken Lin in last month’s piece, I now had one of my two remaining targets firmly in my gaze. However, this part of the plan went down the Swannee remarkably quickly. I was not angling the weekend following the above capture and was popping over to Horton on the Sunday morning to try and establish beyond doubt if the tremendous rumours circling the Horton complex, that Ru had finally procured some brew making kit, were actually true or not. For those who don’t know Ru he is not much of a tea drinker and has a preference for good (read, posh) coffee. He’s the guy you stand next to in Costa or Starbucks asking for a double-strength, frothy, vanilla, moccachocofrappalatte or something similar. I called him just before I left home. He had just finished taking pictures of yet another 40 from the Church Lake at Horton (I think there are now 23 of them in there, which is just crazy in a lake of that size). He firstly admonished me for my cynicism, informed me he would soon return to his swim and put the kettle on, and wait for me in his new haunt on the Boat Pool with a steaming mug of tea. Excitedly I got into the car, pointed the trusty carp wagon in the direction of Horton and set off, anticipating a fine and longawaited brew courtesy of the shiny new stove and kettle of the Clone Valley Carper...
Just as I came past the Longfield entrance he rang back and my hopes were dashed. “Sam in the Runway is apparently going absolutely mental. I think he’s got a good ’un in the net. I’ll meet you at Wraysbury.”
I cursed under my breath and turned left at the next junction instead of going straight ahead. It was several weeks before I was able to finally confirm the rumours that his kettle ownership were indeed true as I went on to visit him several times during his successful campaign for the awesome ‘Patch Two-tone’ on the Boat Pool.
Throughout the years, I’ve had carp fishing deliver me many cruel kicks to the nuts, often feeling like they’re from a hefty size 11 foot, clad in steel toe-capped winkle pickers, so naturally I expected the worse (for me). Given the swim it had come from and the moon phase, I knew the chances of it being Paw Print were practically zero and, as I came through the gates, Joel was making his way round the lake for a gander and confirmed what I had already sensed.
It was indeed the Long Sutton and weighing an immense 43lb-plus too. It is a breathtaking carp to see on the bank and has the body shape and form that betrays its Sutton bloodlines, yet from a distance has the purple hues and dark back that reminds me of the mighty Black Mirror that once graced the waters of the Secret Mere, only a short distance away. In my eyes it’s now one of the best lookers in the Valley. Although we hadn’t seen him much recently, Sam had fished hard this year along with some of the other lads, practically living at the lake in April and May (from memory I think he did an incredible 28 nights in April alone which is some effort to make) and it was good to see such a magnificent creature come out to someone who had put the time and effort in over the season. Backs were slapped, hands shaken, captors suitably drenched in water, and I eventually returned home – tea-less.
With this having occurred, it was now very much time to commence Plan C and the only one I had left – catch Paw Print. In reality I had no actual plan, just a desire to catch it. So I figured that devising some form of cunning plan would probably be a sensible idea. With a forthcoming work trip taking me out of the country for 10 days, I knew I only had two weekends fishing available before then, with only one falling on a decent and likely moon phase to try and snare the beast.
As mentioned last month, the bailiff team at Wraysbury fish the weekends on a rota and due to a few holidays and some weekends being swapped by the other lads, we had a gap the following weekend. So I heroically (read selfishly) volunteered for it. I immediately booked the Friday afternoon off work to try and ensure I had some Paw Print based real estate to angle from for the
Throughout the years, I’ve had carp fishing deliver me many cruel kicks to the nuts, often feeling like they’re from a hefty size 11 foot, clad in steel toe-capped winkle pickers...
weekend. Assuming this would then gain me some brown-nosed-ie points with head bailiff Jim, I also asked if for the following rota I could volunteer for the weekend, which would coincide with when I was convinced Paw Print would slip up. Jim, knowing me very well, and knowing what a sad bastard I can be at times, was happy to indulge my request and I am guessing saw through my kind offer like a thin pane of glass. Thanks big man! Knowing I could not fish the following weekend but also that I then had my last chance the week after (before departing for the US and Canada) I booked the Wednesday afternoon through to Friday off, to give me a four-night session leading up to and over, what I thought would be the key moon phase.
Prior to autumn’s arrival, most weeknights would see a few of the lads doing overnighters on the lake but now the nights were drawing in they were becoming less and less frequent. I really admire the effort the lads who do this put in and through the course of the season, a number of them have been rewarded with some fine catches to reward their endeavours. With the reduced numbers now fishing midweek, I figured I had a good chance of being able to get some bait going into a chosen swim, prior to the final four-nighter commencing. In my mind this was going to play out as follows: spend some time feeding Paw Print; turn up; catch Paw Print on night one; go home and spend an unexpected three nights in a proper bed. Simple. Anyhow I am skipping ahead of myself somewhat...
On that first session, the Friday afternoon saw me arrive at a relatively empty lake. Based on previous form I wanted to be in one of three swims and, as if by magic, one of them was free. So I dropped into the Bus Stop for the weekend. I would normally stay a night but in my mind I was now fishing for one fish. If carp started showing down the other end there was no point moving as Paw Print had been caught from there so infrequently it felt like I would be reducing my chances of catching it, and not increasing them.
I spread the rods across the swim, one to a hump in open water, one tight to the Cigar Island margin and another to a well-fished spot on the rope, that defines the out of bounds area down the back of the Island. I baited them all fairly heavily with a good dose of Pro Marine, knowing I wouldn’t be going far and was prepared to wait it out. It was now game on...
On dark I had a savage liner on the island rod which I was within a whisker of hitting and it certainly set the heart racing. Due to the Island margins being rather snaggy and each snag being festooned with thousands of razor-sharp zebra mussels, I was fishing this rod as well as the one on the rope totally locked-up, so any occurrence at all meant it was immediately ‘squeaky bum time’...
As usual I was up around sunrise and habitually spent the morning chain-drinking tea, eyes glued to the water. Around eight I had another liner on the island rod. Forty-five minutes later this happened again, then 10 minutes or so later it happened again and shortly afterwards it went, and with such force it almost pulled the bankstick over. I struck into whatever was on the end which left a large boil on the surface right on the tree-line of the island. Applying some sidestrain I heaved it away from the island and walked to the far right of the swim dragging it further into open water. Thankfully it turned and then set off on a very powerful run to my right taking over 20 yards of line in the process. Then, without warning, it turned 180º and made for the back of the island. I ran backwards applying more sidestrain and managed to turn it just as it rolled on the tree-line again. The line it had taken meant it now had a long enough leash to make a dash for the snags in the island margin, with me powerless to stop it. Without warning the line went slack and I assumed the hook had pulled as it had been under tremendous force on two occasions during the fight. I yelled a few obscenities by way of trying to make myself feel slightly better and fortunately the trains behind the swim were on time for once (which is usually only when I’m not on them) so the sound did not travel far. I continued reeling in and eventually only my mainline returned, flapping uselessly across the surface with a clean cut having been made straight through it. For the record that was 30lb Power Pro, which has incredible abrasion resistance for a braid, but was no match for whatever it encountered that morning. I don’t usually dwell for long on lost fish, especially those I haven’t seen, but the power of that told me it was a good fish and I still feel despondent now when I think back to that loss.
The rest of the day passed uneventfully and after reeling the rods in I went for a wander and found a large number of fish down the back of Cigar Island and also not far away in Sunnymeads Corner – so knew my chances were good for another bite or two that night.
I turned in early and aside from a few more ‘bat bites’ was awoken around 3am by a take on the rope spot, which saw me literally dive for the rod as I could see the take had lifted it over the snag ears and it was only remaining vaguely in place due to the mainline being caught behind one of them (note to self – next time put a storm pole in as well!).
I dipped the rod to the right and simply walked that way in an attempt to pull the fish out of the snaggy channel which worked perfectly. The next part of the fight didn’t go so well... It kited into the margins where I knew that, although in very shallow water, there was a snag present that would cause me a few issues if it made it in there. Before it had, I suddenly felt an awful grating sensation through the rod and everything felt strangely bouncy and like I was playing it on a length of elastic – which clearly wasn’t right. Then
the inevitable happened, the fish was gone and the hook pulled into something that wasn’t moving. Great. It had now started raining and as someone who believes pulling for a break is always an absolute last resort, I knew I had to don the waders and try and sort out whatever had occurred. Casting to the spot involved wading down the margin, which I already knew was safe to walk along in the dark, so I grabbed a head-torch and set off as the sounds of the rain pattering the surface grew steadily louder.
I waded down the margin until I was level with the rope, tightened down on the rod and grabbed the line. I pulled it and could see what had happened. Clearly, someone previously had attempted to cast at the same spot and cast straight over the rope. Upon doing this, said genius then managed to hook the rope and in a stunning display of stupidity then decided to pull for a break. The result of this was a lead which had travelled down the line after the lead clip detached from the swivel becoming firmly embedded in the snag I mentioned. Add a further 20 odd feet of thick mono into the equation, which was now caught in a trail of sunken willow branches and weed and the combined effect of all this was the ‘bungee’ acting as a supremely efficient disgorger as the fish kited behind it. Deep, deep joy.
Given the force that would likely be required to sort the mess out I waded back to the bivvy for what I call my snag gloves and returned to the offending mess. If you’ve ever tried hand-lining wet braid you’ll understand just why I take them (a pair of gardening gloves I always keep in the holdall). Oh, did I mention it had started raining? Well by this point it was pouring down and I was as wet inside my waders as I would have been out of them! To cut a long, wet, painful and sweary process short, I eventually managed to retrieve my rig as well as removing the offending items of other gear. I figured by this point I could only get any wetter if I fell in, so repositioned the rod and went back to sleep a dishevelled mess, for a cruelly short period of time before my alarm went off.
A few hours later I conceded defeat and retreated home, having suffered only my second blank session on there that year. I gave the swim a big hit of bait before I left. As ever, I also left swearing vengeance and all the other silly things we do when a bad session occurs.
At home when my wounds had been sufficiently licked I gained a more positive outlook. I’d fished a swim for the first time, had two bites (even if I lost them both) and managed to remove a troublesome snag. Plus I now had a plan... sorry, A plan!
Unable to fish the following weekend, I made a return after dark on the Sunday evening with a combined 12kg of Pro Marine Hemp and a healthy dose of 18mm Pro Marine to boot. I knew no one was in the swim when I walked the lake on the Saturday morning so hoped it would be free. With only one van in the car park I made my way round the lake with a spring in my step.
Arriving at the Bus Stop I stopped in my tracks when I found someone set up. Fortunately, it was a good mate, Joel, having moved in there that afternoon. Upon seeing the rod and buckets I was holding, along with the look on my face, he immediately knew the score. Joel’s a great guy and can be trusted with a secret and I told him of my plan to bait heavily for the next three days, then arrive Wednesday to hopefully reap the rewards. Top bloke that he is he told me to spomb the open water spot up as it was miles from where he was fishing, offered to bait the other two spots for me when he left and even made me a cup of tea. What a legend. How many people would do that for you on a busy syndicate? I returned again for the following two nights to repeat the exercise and this time, as hoped, the swim was empty both nights. It also transpired I was not the only one who had such clandestine plans underway – two of the other lads, who will remain nameless, were a little surprised to see me emerging from the bushes one evening to find them secretly baiting a different area of the lake. Good angling fellas.
I did my usual trick driving to the lake Wednesday morning before hopping on the train. It turned out to be one of those days in work when you are constantly looking out of the window, hoping and praying someone will not be in the swim when you arrive. I left slightly later than planned, and purposefully sat on the left hand side of the train knowing I would be travelling directly behind the swim. Upon seeing it was empty I gave a little “Yesssss” and a fist pump, much to the amusement, or probable concern, of my fellow passengers. In no time I was in the swim and had the rods out, all of which cracked down on the spots with the usual rigs and an assortment of hookbaits on – a mixture of Stinky Squidz and pink Pro Marine corkers. I had a good lead around in the weed near the open water spot which had seen all of the hemp and
Upon seeing it was empty I gave a little “Yesssss” and a fist pump, much to the amusement, or probable concern, of my fellow passengers
didn’t bring a single strand back with any hemp in which raised my confidence through the roof. I baited the spots fairly heavily hoping any fish in the area would have been used to finding it in recent days and went to sleep before ten hoping for some action during the night.
At just gone 3am the Island rod was away and sickeningly, after about 30 seconds, after doing the hard part and leading the fish away from the snags, the line fell slack. Upon reeling in, the hook point had been turned completely over and had clearly not penetrated far enough to stay in situ. Cursing my luck I clipped a fresh rig and bait on, cast them back to the spot and ‘sticked’ another few hundred baits out.
At 7.30am and just after a hearty breakfast, the same rod was away. After coming away from the snags initially, it then turned and powered down the front of the Island into the snaggy channel. Due to the length of line it was on, having learned some painful lessons I reeled fast and put on a large amount of side-strain before it turned. A few beeps on the locked up rod in the channel told me it was still deep as it bumped the other line and then put on a hard fighting display in the margins. Eventually, a long fish succumbed to the waiting net.
Knowing it was still bite time I secured the fish in the net, clipped another rig and bait on, whizzed them out and rebaited the spot. Shortly afterwards I hoisted the fish onto the scales recording a weight of 26lb 10oz and fired off some self takes before slipping the carp back into his watery abode.
At 9.30am the decision to quickly rebait the rod was vindicated and it was away again. As I hit the take, the fish boiled literally in the branches on the edge of the island. The same routine of walking right whilst applying heavy sidestrain followed and I drew the fish away from the snags. I carefully stepped into the lake with the net and after a relatively ponderous fight, a spectacular-looking, scaly mirror with his dorsal fin angrily erect, slipped into the waiting folds of the net. It truly was a spectacular-looking creature and I immediately thought it was one of the almost fully-scaled stockies that had broken the 30lb barrier earlier this year, that Sam and then Carl Brown had caught. This fish deserved something better than self-takes so once more I rang the long suffering Ru who arrived slightly afterwards, along with Gorgeous George the RK Fishery Manager. By this time I had weighed her in at 30lb 6oz and, as I unzipped the retainer for the photos, we literally gasped aloud as her flanks were teasingly revealed and the bright autumn sun reflected off the golden, apple-slice scales which clad her flanks. As ever Ru took some stunning shots, one of which found its way proudly onto the cover of Carp-talk a few weeks later.
Now due to the nature of his jobs, Ru has developed quite an eye for fish recognition over the years and had left me with his usual nod and wink, and “Not sure it is that one son” before he disappeared to download the pictures. He messaged me shortly afterwards to inform me not only was it not the fish we thought it was, but he could not find a picture of it anywhere. Therefore, I could have caught a virgin 30 from the lake. If so, then marvellous. If not, who really cares when they look like this! I know it has been said elsewhere but the stock fish that RK put into the lake upon taking it over have started coming on leaps and bounds this year. With the change from day ticket to a syndicate and a lot of quality bait now going into the lake as a result, we’ve had over 15 different stock fish reach 30lbplus which bodes incredibly well for the future of the lake and the next chapter in its long history.
The rest of the day passed quietly with me checking my phone every other hour to see what the weather had in store, as we were expecting the tail end of Storm Brian to arrive at some point in the following few days. Unfortunately, it looked like I was in for a real battering fishing the north end of the lake but as Del Boy would say, “He who dares” and all that...
I again got an early night but was not asleep long when the island rod went yet again. In almost a repetition of the battle with the fully-scaled I soon had a large shape appearing in the dull glow of the head-torch. As it slipped over the net chord I muttered to myself “That looks like another lump” as its length and width gave an indication of its size. I was 99% sure I had now landed a brace of 30s. Initially I thought it may have been a fish called the Unknown Mirror due to its almost linear scaling but it seemed too long. The scales happily confirmed my initial estimates, and at 33lb 8oz it was at the time, the biggest of the RK stock fish to date, and a wonderful carp to
brace the fully-scaled with from that morning (a few weeks later this crown passed to another stockie that went over 36). Knowing Ru was asleep over on the Boat Pool I left her in the retainer whilst I prepped the gear for some self-take night shots which came out pretty well all things considered.
As you can imagine by this time I was feeling mega confident. Two nights in, four takes and a brace of 30s. So I baited heavily again that day in anticipation of more action and hopefully Paw Print was soon to make an appearance. Surprisingly Friday passed quietly. With all the takes so far coming to the one rod I was keen to get the others working for me. Deciding to remain patient with the open water spot, knowing it had been cleaned out that week, I chose to reposition the left hand rod. Until now it had been fishing further out along the rope where I had previously seen a number of fish bubbling during the last session there. I decided to return it to the spot from the last session on the rope and once again made the trip down the margins in my waders before flicking it once more the short distance to the chosen buoy (and then securing a storm pole as a snag stick next to the buzzer).
Saturday morning heralded the aforementioned arrival of Storm Brian... for several hours a large bank of grey cloud had been building and darkening ominously on the horizon and gusts of wind were increasing in both ferocity and magnitude. By way of preparation, I had sought out some large chunks of wood from all around the swim and now built them
Unfortunately, it looked like I was in for a real battering fishing the north end of the lake but as Del Boy would say, “He who dares” and all that...
as a makeshift combined windbreak/peg anchor as you can see from the photo. By ten in the morning the wind was absolutely brutal. If not for being in the slight lee of the Cigar Island (due to its orientation to the wind) I have no doubt that even with my precautions and Heath Robinson-inspired building work, my bivvy would have ended up on the railway track behind me! For around five hours I clung forlornly onto the fabric to take the pressure off of the pegging points hoping to be able to ride out the storm with an intact shelter.
Despite the air pressure being through the floor and the conditions being so unbelievably ‘text book’ for a bite, nothing happened. Not a show, not a liner and not a sighting. I think one fish came out that day in the Runway, about 300-plus yards away, in the central section of the lake. I was convinced the action was going to continue, but for whatever reason and in the most perfect conditions possible, the fish had seemingly done the off.
Now I am not good at sitting still at the best of times but had a decision to make. Usually after 24 hours on the lake if I had not had a take, or if I suspected I was not on fish, I would move. This time however I felt differently, knowing the area had seen a lot of bait. The weather was due a 180º change that night so I wondered if they would come back again.
That evening on dusk I sat with a steaming mug of tea looking at a millpond and was convinced I had made the right call. I had not put any more bait out, figuring that if they returned the area would be ‘just as they left it’ and went to sleep confident of some action.
Sometime around 4am the rope rod in the channel gave a panicked flurry of beeps and I was soon equally panicked and locked in battle with a fast-moving fish. Without too many shenanigans on its part an upper-double mirror soon sat in the net with its gills flaring. I decided it had suffered enough of an ordeal, unhooked it in the net, had a quick once over to check it for any damage, and let it go without having removed it from the water.
Unfortunately Paw Print was still to make my acquaintance and around ten that morning after no more action, I started the long walk back to the car park with my gear. I knew in reality that was it for me for the year. I was done. My chance had come and gone and it had not happened. What had started as a difficult season had ended well due to some good decisions, help from good friends and the understanding of a good woman, all combined with a healthy dose of good luck. Thus I loaded the car a content man.
As I now write this, decisions still need to be made about what 2018 year may hold in store. Do I contend with the regatta on a no doubt even busier Wraysbury 2? Do I go back for another go at catching two carp out of a possible 400 on Wraysbury 1? Do I go and chance my arm on a new venue I’ve held a ticket on for a few years now – a vast, no publicity, low-stocked pit in the Valley, fished by a most secretive bunch of anglers and rumoured to be the home of giant commons? Only time will tell. At the time of loading the car on that November morning however, distant shores were calling, and one night in a small and intimate theatre on Broadway, the fulfilment of another and very different dream beckoned...
ABOVE A view through the bushes of the rope spot
BACKGROUND A tale for another time
TOP Just enough rope to hang themselves! TOP RIGHT Opening the retainer to reveal my prize
ABOVE The long 26lb 10oz mirror
BOTTOM 33-pounder that completed the brace of 30s later that night
BELOW Constantly scouring the water’s surface during the quieter times, allowed me to keep a track of their whereabouts
ABOVE Prepping for Storm Brian’s arrival